'Neat' Scanner Apps for iOS, Android Do Away with Pesky Paper Receipts

The Neat apps for iOS and Android scan and digitize paper-based information, and for the most part they work well, according to CIO.com blogger James A. Martin. The apps and service probably aren't for everyone, though. Here's why.

I’m not ready to wear Google's "Glass" glasses, and probably never will be, but in other ways, I’m all for going completely digital—especially when it comes to reducing paper waste.

Receipts. Business cards. Paper documents that someone mailed to me or handed over on the street. I want them gone from my life, which is why I first tried Neat’s mobile app and cloud service.

Neat is all about digitizing disparate paper-based information and turning it into searchable data on your computer. Neat sells desktop-based ($400) and portable scanners ($180) for PCs and Macs.

The company recently released free iOS and Android apps for subscribers of NeatCloud, its cloud-based, digital-filing system. NeatCloud costs $6 a month for personal plans and $25 a month for business plans. A $15 Home & Office plan is free for 30 days.

In my tests on an iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy Note Android smartphone, the Neat app (mostly) did a good job transforming photos of paper documents taken with the devices' cameras into digital information. Unlike the similar OneReceipt app, the Neat apps (and Neat servers) digitized the printed information in minutes.

Neat Android

Unfortunately, the app had problems reading and transfering information from a plain, text-only business card—and yet had no problem with a graphic-heavy business card.

The apps sync newly-scanned data with your NeatCloud account, which in turn syncs with the Neat software on your Mac or PC. The Neat desktop client also syncs with other applications, including your computer’s contacts program, which in turn may sync with Gmail or other online services. There’s a whole lot of syncing going on, and it worked for me, though judging from comments on Google Play and iTunes, other users have had different experiences. The current version of Neat on iOS has a dismal two-star iTunes rating, and the average rating for the Android app is 3.1 stars on Google Play.

The Neat iOS and Android apps are only for scanning and viewing information. You can’t create expense or other reports, as you can with NeatCloud in a Web browser or the Neat desktop software.

So is it worth $6 to $25 a month to accurately scan receipts, business cards and documents on the go without having to pack a scanner? If you travel a lot on business, you'll likely appreciate NeatCloud and its apps. Otherwise, save yourself the monthly fees and do your scanning in the office.

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